The problem is multi-faceted; not all students are suited for STEM, but interests can be inspired incrementally and time phased.
Educational and vocational programs must begin early and continue through to adulthood.
Technical programs at the elementary, middle, high school levels must be in sync with the innovative developments of creative industries.
Unfortunately, most of the educational institutions (both primary and secondary) do not concentrate on STEM programs. Most institutions focus on careers where the current job openings seem to have highest demand. Unfortunately, service related jobs seem to be more important to society today.
The FIRST program is indeed a very excellent program that introduces young folks to engineering in an interesting manner and gathers a lot of good attention for engineering. BUT not that big of a percentage of students are involved in FIRST. So while it does a good job for some, the majority probably never even hear about it. And those others also need some education in science, at least an understanding of some of what we use daily, in order to not be "just plain ignorant." Some exposure to at least some of the rules of physics and kinematics is needed for things like driving safely and being able to do many activities, like mowing the lawn, safely.
Unfortunately a large portion of our population is simply not able to focus their attention long enough to even listen to lessons on these topics. Thatis one root of the problem, and lack of ability to focus is probably one of the real challenges that we have today. I believe that it is something new, and I am not certain about how to solve that problem.
Neil certainly has a good point about a couple of things. The media certainly does not seem to respect engineeringvery much, or even understand just what it is. Of course a lot of others don't understand it either. Besides that, and unfortunately, engineering does not seem to pay that very well, especially compared to so many other professions that provide no benefit to society or anybody else. And that is a pity.
And it happens to be in our neck of the woods. I will be showing it to our fifteen year old son this evening. I called the company and they are willing to do teenager/adult classes - I am thinking this would be a lot of fun for the whole family and may just re-energize our son's flagging interest in learning how technology works.
I am from down under (Australia) I take in interns for industry training and we have the same problem they are due to.
High schools in general have stopped metal and wood work classes therefore
That students do not the names of hand tools or hoe to use them.
Technical collages charge fees for courses and do not give enough time for lab work.
Universities do not give enough time to hands on (lab) experence.
The students are not given enough advice their ability to do the course. It is a requirement for students to go to year 12 even if the are going garbage collectors, street sweepers, labours we are ending up with a lot a educated unskilled people, GO BACK TO BASIC'S
Dean Kamen saw the problem over 20 years ago and did something constructive as a solution. He started FIRST.
There is a long history of students getting involved and becoming wildly enthusiastic about STEM by creating teams to build a robot in 6 weeks. There are incredible accomplishments and successful careers that have been launched by the experience of FIRST.
I have had the privilege of being a Judge and Judge Advisor for 8 years in this annual event which reaches thousands of students from age 6 through 18 typically.
Please check out the link above. FIRST is growing. The Championship is held in St.Louis in April and fills the Edwards Dome for 4 days. It is exciting, energetic and inspirational.
I do not believe that students need new stuff to get interested in STEM. In fact I think there is some very old stuff that can provide more inspiration than any CAD package. I am often surprised at the interest that ancient siege machines generate in today's youth for example. The physics and problem solving involved in a Trebuchet is impressive.
I do think that students need to have access to tools but good old fashioned basic tools will serve the purpose just as well. I would love to see a return of metal and wood shops to schools for example.
Most important though is role models, examples, and mentors. Kids need farming. We need farmers to plant the seeds and inspiration, pull the weeds to improve chances of success, and provide water to help the spirit grow. It is probably not entirely coincidental that many of today's engineering schools started out as agricultural schools.
Not everyone is cut out for STEM, ie, college. I don't see the 57% as a bad merit factor. That leaves 43% still interested in STEM. The more relevant question is if the number interested in STEM careers equals or is greater than the number of jobs available in STEM?
I see this misconceived notion more and more in all of our society that everyone must go to college. That just does not match our human nature.
Better tools are helpful, but only in the hands of a dedicated artisan. You can't make good product if you don't know the fundamentals of what makes a good product. There is no substitute for learning the fundamentals at the earliest possible opportunity and building consistently on these fundamentals throughout one's school and working life. We all love technology, but to be a builder instead of just another user, it takes a lot more.
STEM is a made up term to satisfy peoples' feelings that continue to experiment with our children's education. And although anecdotal, I have been an engineer for 30 years, and have yet to meet my fellow colleague that claims there are open requisitions (except during the telecom boon) waiting for STEM students.
And I would venture a bet that most of us engineers are in our profession because of our admiration of the space program and the computer. The elementary education is and was always there, but putting a man on the moon was new.
What's new today? STEM – LOL you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
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